A LETTER TO THOSE WHO HAVE GIVEN UP ON AGILE
(Agile Series Part 1)
Things aren’t working well. You get your product out the door, but your customers don’t like it. Your big quarterly upgrades are riddled with bugs. You’re constantly behind schedule, and your team is regularly distracted with problems or miscommunication. You know there’s room for improvement, but you either don’t have the time or don’t know where to start.
This is the first in a series of articles exploring pragmatic steps you can take to implement an Agile mindset and practices. We’ll look at how you can help improve your organization’s ability to deliver value, drive employee engagement, and foster a learning mindset oriented towards growth that meets the needs of the customer. Change can be hard, but we can help.
Shining a Light Into the Dark Corners
Are any of these scenarios familiar to you?
“We keep making the same mistakes.” Week over week, month over month, your teams stall in the same quagmires. Problems are built into the process; things never get better. As soon as you start to address a root cause, new escalations kill your momentum.
“We waste time on the wrong things.” Your team is stuck, but a new idea comes along and everyone loves it. Everyone is energized, and you’re propelled down the new route. After a month things start to slow down as the idea becomes a burden. Your team is stuck, but a new idea comes along…
“I don’t know what my people are actually working on.” You run a complex organization, matrixed across multiple workstreams. There’s no way for you to know how everyone is engaged, and you suspect there is duplicate work hiding in the shadows. You know that transparency is needed, but every time you try to implement structure things fall apart after a week or two.
“My team is operational: we’re too busy to level up.” Your body of work is open-ended: keep the lights on. You know there’s room to improve, but getting there is hard. Process improvement efforts have been inefficient and are sidetracked by immediate needs. At this rate, transformation will not happen.
“How can I justify changes to my product after all this investment?” Enormous expectations are on your shoulders, but the transformation outcomes are poorly defined. You have a constrained budget, and you’re nervous about the up-front investment in a prototype that will change as soon as customer feedback rolls in. Iteration is great in theory, but how do you demonstrate progress now when requirements start to shift in 3 months?
Agile Was Supposed to Fix These Problems
You bought a promise: Agile will solve these problems. Sold by words like iteration, transparency, and collaboration, you had your teams certified, added boards and huddles, and embraced a new way of doing things.
But the problems didn’t go away. Months later, you found that Agile lost momentum. Your teams struggled to find value in dogmatic ceremonies, and a perceived lack of flexibility impacted adoption. Kanbans de-evolved into time tracking tools, huddles were abandoned when they stopped adding value, and everyone slowly settled back into the old way of working.
Agile was supposed to fix your problems, but it didn’t. It just gave the problems a new vocabulary and introduced new ways to frustrate your employees.
You Need a Pragmatic Approach
Agile falls apart if the WHY behind it isn’t understood. People won’t adopt a new way of working if they don’t see value in it. Leaders need to foster an agile culture and processes that empower teams to enable better outcomes. This development won’t happen overnight, but iteratively finding opportunities to capitalize on quick wins will form a pragmatic approach on the Agile implementation journey. It’s also important to keep in mind that Agile will look different in each organization because each organization is different, and that’s okay. Agile mindsets and processes are built when leadership and teams are on the same page, with the same focus on delivering value to the customer.
Many of us at The Gunter Group have seen failed Agile adoptions associated with larger transformation initiatives, and we started asking ourselves why. In the process, we’ve developed a philosophy of Pragmatic Agile. Pragmatic Agile is a flexible approach. It starts from breaking down agile into core value propositions, and adapting those propositions to the unique needs of your business.
The direct value of a more iterative approach to strategic change and improvement is obvious in most cases. The hidden challenge however, is changing behavior to truly be Agile. Join us in this series to understand what you can do today to start gaining value from your Agile journey. Agile can work for you. You can adopt it; we can help.
At The Gunter Group, our driven employees make us who we are – a talented team of leaders with deep and diverse professional experience. The big firm model does not resonate with us–we prefer to collaborate, rather than tell you how to do things. If you want to go deeper with your Agile needs, don’t hesitate to reach out. We would be happy to help you strategize!